Review: Nevermore by William Hjortsberg
Author: William Hjortsberg
Publisher: Open Road
Publication Date: March 2012
Why I Read It
I am always interested in anything related to Poe, Houdini, and somewhat intrigued by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. After perusing NetGalley’s listings, I came across this novel by William Hjortsberg and decided it had to be worth the read. Poe, Houdini, and Doyle all in one. Had to be good.
Short Synopsis (no spoilers)
Murders begin piling up and they appear to be based on Poe’s stories. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, as lecturer, travels America to lecture on the occult and ends up being asked to help, or more often assumed to be helping, the NYC police solve these murders. Poe makes his own appearance in ghostly form, while Houdini tries to discredit the very mediums Doyle speaks about.
Set during the Jazz Age, I enjoyed the period setting, but often got lost in the small details sprinkled throughout to set the stage. Historical novels should be engaging reads, but should not bog the reader down with lists of people, places, and facts. It takes the reader away from the storyline and in Hjortsberg’s novel, there were several points where the storyline got lost in the details of the period.
The separate plot lines did not come together well, either. Houdini and Doyle’s struggle over whether contact can be made with the dead was a great plot line and could have taken the plot of the novel all on its own. I understand the desire to make this plot line come alive with the Poe murders and Doyle experiencing contact with Poe’s dead ghost to help him figure out the murders. It would have made more sense to have Houdini experience the visits from Poe, since he was the one who did not believe in ghosts and other mediums.
Character development was left mostly to the reader. Maybe because the characters were so familiar, it was assumed readers would have their own preconceived ideas about the major players. While this may be true, the author should have spent more time fleshing out the characters, within the setting.
Overall the novel was a fair read, but it was not outstanding. Not one I will re-read or recommend to others.